Attended my first Cymreig anything in Virginia this past Saturday at the North American Festival of Wales.
First time for me to meet and speak to a Cymraeg speaker. First time to meet amazing SSiWers @aran @tahl @Sionned @atomic_newt and her Husband.
First time for for me to do anything Cymreig outside of internet.
I could only attend one day of the four (Saturday), so it was a whirlwind day! Tahl introduced me to Aran and Sionned who welcomed me warmly. Aran was kind enough to allow me to hang around and pester him with questions and ideas about all things Cymreig like language, history, politics and culture. He was too tired, I think, to know I’d suck him dry of information. Perhaps he thought I’d accost him like Americans do in TV shows with guns blazing. HA! Atomic_Newt, also an American, speaks Cymraeg so well, when she transitions back to English, she has an accent, which slowly fades the further she gets from the language. Everyone I met was welcoming and open to speaking the language with me and very patient with my low quality Cymraeg. It was surprising to see a microcosm of people from all over North America come together with a lot of passion and enthusiasm for the language and culture!
Prior to February of this year, I only knew two things about Wales, geographic location and Dr Who is filmed in Caerdydd. My parents never spoke about to any ancestry, other than a mythical link to a Cherokee, Native American, Great-Grandmother. And that’s a funny story for another time. In February I found out genetically that I’m 69.5% Welsh. Thus began my quest to learn the language, leading me to SSiW and to the North America Festival of Wales. At the festival, I learned how potent, vibrant, rich and alive the Culture is, how traditions carry on in America, and how the Welsh impacted the United States. As I type these words and revel in the emotions of the day, tears of joy slowly seep from my eyes! Oh my God, is this a “Welsh thing?” I think I have hiraeth for a place I’ve never seen or visited. HA!
So many stories I want to share with this community, but I’ll handpick the best. Aran was relating a story how his Children have outgrown the Cyw TV program and are now watching American programs and how they pretend to be American teenagers with “Thick American Accents.” I paused mentally to think about what is a “Thick American Accent,” because I don’t know what it sounds like. I told this story to my 14 year old Daughter who said, and I quote, “What???” She paused like I did trying to imagine a thick American accent. “This is going to sound biased, but we don’t have accents. We speak plain.” HA! Then she found a video of Europeans imitating American accents. Most were speaking in a New York or New Jersey accent. Is this the thick American accent? The horrors you Welsh and Brits must think of Americans.
The Festival was my first chance to “sirad efo unrhywun yn Gymraeg.” I consider myself a Welsh speaker, albeit a newbie. From SSiW I knew I could carry on a limited conversation using different verb tenses on a variety of difference subjects. I was surprised how intimidated I was to speak my first words of Cymraeg despite my knowledge. Listening to fluent speakers, I thought, “I can speak the language. Just not like that.” And in that moment, the words I learned, memorized and repeated hundreds of times, triumphantly marched away from the speaking center of my brain to hide amongst the neurons containing the ideas of things forgotten. Thankfully English had not evaporated, but Aran in a grand teaching moment said to me, “Dwi isho clywed I ti siarad yn y Gymraeg.” That one sentence, that short, little string of nine words restored my confidence and encouraged me to search among the forgotten relics of memory and shove the found geiriau Cymraeg back into my speech center. Some words and tenses managed to sneak away, but at least I was finally speaking in Cymraeg to many people. It was fantastic and I didn’t want to stop even though I exhausted the words in my memory. Sadly, I had to leave but I noticed something interesting when conversing with my Wife on the way home. Cymraeg popped into my brain before English…just for a moment, though. I was overjoyed to realize that…Cymraeg is important to me…the language matters to me…that Cymraeg should thrive not only in Wales but globally…that Cymraeg will not disappear as so many other languages will…if for no other reason than I can say to a pesky telemarketer, “Mae ddrwg gen I, ond dydw i ddim yn siarad Saesneg. Dw i’n siarad Cymraeg. Fedra I dy helpu di?” And by the off-chance the telemarketer responds in Cymraeg, I will probably buy regardless of what is sold. HA!